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About the Author

Works by Mollie Panter-Downes

Associated Works

The 40s: The Story of a Decade (2014) — Contributor — 276 copies
Short Stories from The New Yorker, 1925 to 1940 (1940) — Contributor — 202 copies
A Train of Powder (1955) — Foreword, some editions — 158 copies
The Persephone Book of Short Stories (2012) — Contributor — 120 copies
55 Short Stories from The New Yorker, 1940 to 1950 (1949) — Contributor — 60 copies
The Ash-Tree Press Annual Macabre 1997 (1997) — Contributor — 15 copies


Common Knowledge

Legal name
Panter-Downes, Mary Patricia
Date of death
London, England, UK
Place of death
Compton, Surrey, England, UK
Places of residence
London, England, UK
New York, New York, USA
Brighton, Sussex, England, UK
Roppelegh's, Surrey, UK
short story writer
biographer (show all 7)
book reviewer
The New Yorker
Short biography
Mary Patricia "Mollie" Panter-Downes was born in London, England and grew up in Essex. Her parents were Marie Kathleen and Major Edward Martin Panter-Downes, an officer in the Royal Irish Regiment killed at the Battle of Mons in World War I when his daughter was eight. Mollie published her first novel, The Shoreless Sea, at age 16. It became a bestseller. Her second novel The Chase was published in 1925 and was followed by several more, including One Fine Day (1947, reissued 1986), one of the most enduring novels of the century. She married Clare Robinson in 1929 and the couple traveled around the world and had two daughters. They lived in a 16th-century house on a farm near Chiddingfold in Surrey, 40 miles south of London. In 1938, she began a 50-year career of writing for the New Yorker. At first she contributed some poems and short stories, then she became the regular British correspondent through her "Letter from London" column, which ran from September 1939 until 1984. Her column was so popular that that the first year's correspondence was issued as a collection called Letter From England in 1940. She also wrote travel articles, book reviews, children's literature, nonfiction books such as Ooty Preserved (1967), and a biography of the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne.



Imagine Mrs. Dalloway taking place during the first summer of peace after the Second World War, and you have something very similar to Panter-Downes's One Fine Day. The prose here is eerily similar to Woolf's, in fact, as well as Bowen's and even Elizabeth Taylor's, but the overarching debt here is very obviously to Woolf's novel.

Much more so than there, though, does Panter-Downes get under the skin of the class system, its destabilization after WWII, and the sense of delusion under which most privileged Brits lived during the war. While Laura holds the center, and causes Panter-Downes to focus a lot on women's changing roles in and out of the domestic sphere, comments about class and aging, class and bias, class and hypocrisy—all combined with an attention to gender—there are some very astute portraits in here, too, of a crisis in masculinity that the war prompted more so than WWI did, a sense of displacement, and, even still, a nationalistic pride and all but unfounded optimism that is never droll, trite, or sentimental.

It's a damn shame this book is out of print; even more so, that Panter-Downes has written several other novels, about which I can find hardly any information at all, anywhere. If anyone finds information out, please do comment below. This is a fantastic writer whose insight into humanity just in the aftermath of chaos is so worthwhile and prescient to read given the current political climate.
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1 vote
proustitute | 15 other reviews | Apr 2, 2023 |
A lot of people seem to like this book. But it wasn't really for me. It's a bit melancholy and contemplative as opposed to narrative, though I did like the tone closer to the end.

It more or less felt like a series of essays on postwar Britain, placed in the minds of fictional people. The author felt that journalism was her true forte, which I can understand, because this book is plotless. It is the thoughts and feelings of a British matron, with a bit from her husband and daughter, over the course of one day. And it's mostly just remembering and comparing things from before World War II and after. Similar territory to Angela Thirkell, but with not even a hint of a plot.

By the end of the book you can tell that the husband and wife, while disappointed in their new lifestyle, are probably going to make the best of it and try to enjoy the simpler pleasures more. So I liked that. And especially the part where the woman climbs the hill above the town, a thing she hasn't done for years, marvels at the land, and takes a nap that helps to reset her mind.
However, overall it was quite slow, a book you'd have to be in the right mood for.
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Alishadt | 15 other reviews | Feb 25, 2023 |
Mollie Panter-Downes was hired by the New Yorker magazine in the years prior to WWII to provide very short fictional stories based on real world London life for the American jet-set. As WWII came, Mollie changed her 'Letter from London' to be about life for the English left behind while the men went off to fight in the war. The letters are a collection of very short stories that focused on the mundane rather than the horror of living in the war. Some of the stories grab you, some I just quickly skimmed. I really didn't find the book as interesting as I had hoped. It's a very quick read though, so little lost.… (more)
rayski | 23 other reviews | Jan 27, 2022 |
Superb war time stories set among those Keeping the Home Fires burning while the menfolk were away..
The wealthy, struggling along minus servants; those forced to share a home with friends or evacuees; sewing parties; a wife preparing for her husband's departure..
Originally written for the American audience of the New Yorker, these are quite superb; humorous, touching and well observed.
Could anything beat this description of an unlovely working class evacuee infant:
"The baby, sitting impassively in its mother's arms, wore a dirty red knitted cap in which it oddly resembled a wizened old sans-culotte, a mummified Marat with a snotty nose."
Brilliant writing.
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starbox | 23 other reviews | Apr 6, 2021 |



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